Spider [2002]

For devoted fans and nonfans alike, Spider-Man offers nothing less--and nothing more--than what you'd expect from a superhero blockbuster. Having proven his comic-book savvy with the original Darkman, director Sam Raimi brings ample energy and enthusiasm to Spidey's origin story, nicely establishing high-school nebbish Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) as a brainy outcast who reacts with appropriate euphoria--and well-tempered maturity--when a "super-spider" bite transforms him into the amazingly agile, web-shooting Spider-Man. That's all well and good, and so is Kirsten Dunst as Parker's girl-next-door sweetheart. Where Spider-Man falls short is in its hyperactive CGI action sequences, which play like a video game instead of the gravity-defying exploits of a flesh-and-blood superhero. Willem Dafoe is perfectly cast as Spidey's schizoid nemesis, the Green Goblin, and the movie's a lot of fun overall. It's no match for Superman and Batman in bringing a beloved character to the screen, but it places a respectable third. --Jeff Shannon

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